Gelven prof phil @ NIU 1994 (Michael, War and Existence)
Heidegger develops a simple expedient for making sense out of the various modalities of our existence. We are either authentic or inauthentic in our modalities. Authenticity is the way in which our meaning is manifest in the ways in which we exist; inauthenticity is the way in which that meaning does not occur. To put it simply, each and every one of the various a priori existentials, such as being-in-the-world and being-with, can be either authentic or inauthentic.
Authentic being-with and authentic heritage require that one’s historical and one’s communal existence be made meaningful. In other words, I cannot remain indifferent to who I am or what my history is and remain true to myself. Who I am is determined in part by who I am with. Thus, my American historicality and my American being-with provide their inevitable destiny. It is on the basis of this that we recognize the primordial right of every man and woman to his and her own meaningfulness. Since this meaningfulness is necessarily historical and communal, it explains why war is accepted as a grim but undeniable right. Not to sacrifice on behalf of what is mine is to discredit the very authenticity of being at all.
What Heidegger has done is to show the philosophical legitimacy of judgments about meaning. He has shown that being who I am matters, and if being who I am is characterized by both heritage and being-with, then it can be shown that a supreme and existential value can be placed on one’s nation and tradition. War is the violent defense of these rights, these special existential rights, and since the existential awareness of self-worth must be assumed if any other value whatsoever is possible, the right to war is fundamental. It is the persuasion of the present argument that this self- worth includes a sense of we-self-worth, that is, that the worth of the self required for any and all values understands the self as shared, as we as well as I.
When we imagine the people of London bravely going about their business during the blitz, we can explain this philosophically as their presenting themselves as beings whose collective self-worth matters. Theirs is a statement of the sort, “This is who we are, and who we arematters.” Similarly, when we reflect that soldiers are thought of with a kind of affection lacking in our image of police, we can explain the presence of this affection in terms of what the soldier means to us, a protection of what is ours. Again, the philosophical basis of this attitude is the worth of the we-self over against the threat of something not belonging to what is our own, the they.
This, of course, is going far beyond what Clausewitz says in On War. His point is merely that in our attempt to understand the phenomenon of war, we must see that it is rooted in the political order. Nevertheless, this suggestion has many consequences, among which are these existential observations about war as communal. It is perhaps sometimes difficult to identify with a far-flung and distant war, particularly when things at home are going well or when the reports of the war focus solely on the suffering, confusion, and grief of the combatants and their families, but it is simply inauthentic not to associate oneself with these vast endeavors.
Of all the existential marks, this one most reflects the basic principle of the we-they. If wars are essentially communal, it is easy to see that men fight for the communal we against the threatening other, the they. However, the existential priority of this principle influences not only the content of the description but the method as well. War must be distinguished from other forms of conflict in that it is fought because of the communal sense of being-with-others and not merely fought by groups. This leads us to the consideration of a genealogical account of war.